Rub Elbows with History at a Champions Tour Event

| April 17, 2016

 

Tom Watson tees off for the second round at the Mitsubishi Electric Classic at TPC Sugarloaf on Saturday, April 16, 2016 in Duluth, Ga. Photo credit: Kate Awtrey

Tom Watson tees off for the second round at the Mitsubishi Electric Classic at TPC Sugarloaf on Saturday, April 16, 2016 in Duluth, Ga. Photo credit: Kate Awtrey

Chip Harp, Valdosta Today Sports Feature Writer

DULUTH – In professional sports today, spectators and fans seem more and more distant from the athletes they follow.  Security is tighter.  Ropes are farther away from the action.  And in golf, anyone who has attended a tournament knows some of the biggest stars can seem distant and aloof.

But not at a Champions Tour event.  There, you can literally rub elbows with your heroes.  Especially at the Mitsubishi Classic held near Atlanta.

The leaders get started for the second round at the Mitsubishi Electric Classic at TPC Sugarloaf on Saturday, April 16, 2016 in Duluth, Ga. Photo credit: Kate Awtrey

The leaders get started for the second round at the Mitsubishi Electric Classic at TPC Sugarloaf on Saturday, April 16, 2016 in Duluth, Ga. Photo credit: Kate Awtrey

For those not familiar, the PGA TOUR Champions Tour showcases players aged over 50.  Though a few may be well past their prime, many are still a pleasure to watch and still command a bit of that magic that made them the stars they are.

For example, Colin Montgomery, who for years was the face of European golf in Ryder Cup matches, still has a bit of that magic as he showed the assembled at the TPC Sugarloaf course on Saturday.  With a run of birdies, including three-in-a-row on 14, 15, and 16, took command of the course to post a 6-under 66.  The 53-year old put himself in a tie for second on a very challenging course.

The best part of the day, though, was not the golf.  It was the environment at the tournament itself.

Watching Tom Watson, in the middle of a round, stop to speak to a young fan.  Noticing the players walking with the fans between holes, not on some special roped-path.  The idyllic setting of this club, with its columned clubhouse.  All of this adds to a special day, with special players.

Sure, Tom Watson had a tough day, shooting a 4-over 76 after starting the day in the last group.  But that’s not the point.  It’s Tom Watson, former Open Champion, Masters Champion, US Open Champion, standing there, smiling and mingling with the gallery.

The event is held at the Sugarloaf TPC course in Duluth.  Parking is easy and spectators are shuttled the short distance into the gated community.  Inside, you see lighter crowds than you would expect at a regular PGA TOUR event.  It’s easier to move from group to group.  There are more vantage points devoid of crowds.  And, as noted, you get the odd opportunity to speak with the players themselves.

It is a good tournament for families?  Absolutely.  At the main spectator area behind the 18th green, in addition to the normal food and drink fare, there is a kids play area.  Plus, every year has featured BBQ cooked right on sight.

To raise money for charity, the tournament, on Saturday, featured former Atlanta Brave pitchers and Baseball Hall of Famers Tom Glavine and John Smoltz.  Why would you plunk two baseball players into the middle of a professional golf tournament?  The question is why not?  The fans loved it and it was fun.  (By the way, they both shot 2-over par.)

The event almost seems more like a community cookout than a national golf event.  But that’s the point.  It’s relaxed, fun, and when the weather is as nice as it was on Saturday, an exceptional day to spend with friends and family.

Next year, after you’ve gorged yourself on Masters golf the weekend before, make the trip up to Duluth, just north of Atlanta, and enjoy this wonderful tournament.  It may just remind you of why you fell in love with the game in the first place.

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